NEW BRITAIN - For school districts and parks and recreation departments across Connecticut eager to provide after school programs to the children they serve, the adoption of a state budget last week was better late than never.
The bipartisan budget signed into law by Gov. Dannel Malloy contains about $4.7 million for after-school programs. Without a state budget at the start of the school year, the city has only been able to provide after-school programming for middle school students.
Maggie Winiarski, After School Program coordinator for the Parks and Recreation Department, said the department has submitted applications for two after-school program-oriented grants.
“Once the state Department of Education can start to award those grants, we’ll be able to hear whether our applications were favorable or not,” Winiarski said. “We’re really hopeful for both of them.”
Even without grants having been formally awarded yet, the parks department has outlined a plan for its after-school programming.
The program at all city elementary schools will run from dismissal to 5:45 p.m. on full days. Monday through Friday.
The programs are a collaboration between the parks department and the school district, which provides bus transportation and guidance to the department when creating a curriculum.
“That’s the reason we’re able to have a lot of success with the after-school programs,” Winiarski said.
In the after-school program, students will get help with homework, go on field trips and participate in enrichment activities and extended learning projects like participating in a poetry slam.
“We spend time learning about poetry, creating poetry and creating art to go along with poetry and then we have a poetry slam at the culmination of that learning period,” Winiarski said.
Winiarski and Ashley Santana, of the Parks and Recreation Department, said the importance of after school programs is evident.
“It keep kids in an environment where they’re in their school, they’re safe and they’re still learning,” Winiarski said. “It helps parents out … it’s helpful to know that your kids are somewhere where they’re with a responsible adult - somebody whose helping them out, who could be a role model to them.”
Winiarski said some of the schools will have dinner programs and all schools will have snacks for participating students. Students registered for the district’s free after school programs even before funding was realized, Winiarski said.
“Our programs haven’t even started yet and we have waiting lists at the schools. You can see that the need is very high,” said Santana.
While the program at each school is already at capacity, Winiarski and Santana said the recent budget crisis highlighted the importance of fighting for this funding.
“After-school programs inspire children to learn and connect with each other, provide parents peace of mind while they are at work knowing their children are supervised, and give students the skills they need to land that first job with businesses in their community,” said the Connecticut After School Network in a statement concerning the state budget.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.